2020 Watch: Bloomberg escalates doubts about front-runners

Politics

FILE – In this Feb. 26, 2019, file photo, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks at a news conference at a gun control advocacy event in Las Vegas. Bloomberg has opened door to a potential presidential run, saying the Democratic field ‘not well positioned’ to defeat Trump. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — Presidential politics move fast. What we’re watching heading into a new week on the 2020 campaign:

Days to Iowa caucuses: 84

Days to general election: 358

THE NARRATIVE

Whether he does or doesn’t run, New York billionaire Michael Bloomberg has escalated doubts about front-runners Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren and pushed Democratic anxiety to new heights. There may be more than a dozen candidates still in the race, but several ambitious Democrats who initially opted to bypass a 2020 bid are suddenly being taken seriously as potential candidates. Less than three months before voting begins, the Democratic primary feels increasingly unsettled.

THE BIG QUESTIONS

Bloomberg: Will he or won’t he?

He is one of the richest men on the planet and he’s taking steps toward making a late entrance in the Democratic primary. Bloomberg’s advisers insist that he’s yet to make a final decision, so do not assume he will run — especially given the hostile reception he received from some in his adopted party’s base. Still, his extraordinary wealth means he can be a major factor in the race.

How much does New Hampshire matter in 2020?

The epicenter of the Democratic primary has clearly shifted to New Hampshire in recent weeks, raising questions about how aggressively candidates will compete in the first-in-the-nation-primary state. This week offers a reminder that the top-tier candidates still have a lot to lose there. The stakes are particularly high for Elizabeth Warren, who is locked in what many consider a must-win contest against progressive rival Bernie Sanders because of their perceived neighbor-state advantage. Warren is scheduled to file her formal candidacy papers in the statehouse on Wednesday. And don’t sleep on Pete Buttigieg in New Hampshire. He’s starting the week on a bus tour and positioning himself to exceed expectations in the Granite State, even if he doesn’t win outright.

Trump’s GOP is losing the suburbs. Do they care?

It’s hard to believe that it’s only been a week since Democrats scored victories in Virginia, Pennsylvania and Kentucky that highlighted the Republican Party’s acute problem in the suburbs. Republican-leaning voters there, particularly women, have been quite clear that they don’t like President Donald Trump’s leadership and the GOP’s position on gun violence, among other issues. Trump and his allies largely ignored the problem in the days immediately after the election. If their silence continues this week, we’ll know just how seriously Republicans are taking their suburban problem.

Will the impeachment shadow help or hurt?

The biggest week so far in the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry is upon us. Televised hearings beginning on Wednesday will overshadow the 2020 presidential contest for much of the week. The impeachment inquiry effectively froze the Democratic race when it began earlier in the fall, which seemed to benefit Biden. Will that trend continue this week?

This is a big week for Trump primary challengers. Does it matter?

We forgive you for not having this on your calendars, but three Republican presidential candidates are expected to file formal candidacy papers this week in New Hampshire, which has emerged as ground zero for Republican opposition to the Republican president — to the extent it exists anywhere. Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, former Illinois congressman Joe Walsh and former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford have to file by Friday’s deadline. It’s easy to laugh them off, but their candidacies represent a larger threat to Trump: whether Republicans concerned about the president — and there are many — can be persuaded to show up to vote for him next fall or not.

THE FINAL THOUGHT

The incumbent president is facing an escalating impeachment inquiry and multiple primary challenges, while Bloomberg has exposed major concerns with the Democratic Party’s leading candidates. This isn’t where either party wants to be.

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2020 Watch runs every Monday and provides a look at the week ahead in the 2020 election.

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Follow Peoples at https://twitter.com/sppeoples

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